Stalin has his finger on the button and his flailing arms everywhere else

Control the limbs and manage the stress of a genocidal dictator in Calm Down, Stalin.

What if Stalin had nukes? What if he were really stressed out? What if his wildly flailing arms were controlled by someone born decades after his death? These are the questions long mulled by historians and military experts, and I'm happy to report that Calm Down, Stalin answers it definitively.

Poor Joseph Stalin! His enemies are on the brink of invasion, and the only way he can prevent them from overrunning the Soviet Union's borders is by menacingly holding his finger over the big red button on his desk. That doesn't sound so hard: it's sort of like when you're preparing to poke a link on your touchscreen but you just know an ad banner is going to pop in and push the link down an inch causing you to miss the link and poke the ad, so you (im)patiently wait.

But the life of Stalin is a bit more complex. Hovering a threatening finger over a button to reset an invasion clock that hangs on his wall becomes a challenge when he has to start using that same hand for other things. Answering his phone and holding it to his ear while someone babbles, for instance, allows the enemy to advance until you hang it back up and do more button-hovering. Plus, sometimes just hanging up the phone can be a bit of a problem:

You can only control one of Stalin's arm's at a time, and you swap between them with the mouse button. Picking up and dropping items is done by tapping the space bar. It's not that complicated, but it's a bit awkward at first, as in the above gif where trying to retrieve the dropped phone from the vicinity of the button resulted in me accidentally pushing it and killing millions (millions more than Stalin actually killed, I mean.)

Each level has a timer, and as you manage the button-hovering and phone-answering, you also have to tend to Stalin's stress levels. Life can't be just chatting on the phone and threatening nuclear annihilation: you've take some time out for yourself. Puffing on his pipe calms Stalin down. Don't puff enough, and his arms get even harder to control than they already are, meaning simply hovering over the button without pressing it is a Herculean task, if Hercules had a diet consisting of coffee, cigarettes, and diet pills.

As you progress, more items are added to Stalin's desk and his surroundings. Some are helpful, some aren't. There's a desk lamp that occasionally flickers, for instance, which drives up Stalin's stress levels. I can sympathize. Can you imagine the annoyance of a flickering light while you're trying to be one of history's greatest monsters? Wouldn't that be irritating? Hence, Stalin's need to thump the lamp so it stops flickering.

Before long, Stalin's office becomes cluttered with items. A punching bag to relieve stress hangs in the corner, and a bell can be dinged to order a shot of nerve-soothing vodka.

And, occasionally, someone will deliver a revolver that can be used to shoot some unfortunate off-screen lackey who has angered Stalin by... well, who knows? Probably by delivering some bit of news about how one of Stalin's horrible military blunders has resulted in the senseless death of thousands of troops, perhaps. At any rate, shooting this off-screen person helps Joe calm down a bit.

As you can see, it all becomes a bit much. Answering the phone, thumping the lamp, smoking the pipe, punching the bag, executing the person you blame for the horrible problems caused by your tragically incompetent military leadership, and of course still finding time to hover your finger over the nuke button to turn the enemy invasion clock back. There's really a lot to attend to, and you've only got two wildly flailing arms, after all. As the song goes, it's hard out here for a General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Calm Down, Stalin is a bit of a laugh, owing to the dictator's flailing arms and the goofy physics and the knowledge that Stalin is dead and will be for all eternity. It can be had on Steam for about 250 rubles, or $3.99.


The first PC game Chris owned was Choplifter in 1982, and since then our staff writer has played at least three other games. He has a love/hate relationship with Early Access survival games and an odd fascination with the lives of NPCs.
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